Recently on a quiet Friday evening, I pulled out a DVD of one of my favorite movies. Near the beginning of "Finding Neverland," the playwright, J.M. Barrie meets a jaded young boy named Peter. Unimpressed with Mr. Barrie's vivid imagination, young Peter remains aloof. And when the playwright suggests that his dog, Porthos, be a bear in a make-believe circus, Peter scoffs, "This is absurd. It's just a dog." In disbelief, Barrie counters, "Just a dog? Just? Porthos dreams of being a bear, and you want to shatter those dreams by saying he's just a dog? What a horrible, candle-snuffing word. That's like saying, 'He can't climb that mountain, he's just a man,' or 'That's not a diamond, it's just a rock.' Just."
While we soon discover the "why" behind Peter's cynical words, I found myself wondering how many times I have been the one to speak "horrible, candle-snuffing words" out of my own jaded, wise-in-my-own-eyes disillusionment: "It's just a...", "He always...", "They'll never...", "She constantly..." - the fruit of which has minimized, dismissed, and undermined others. As permanent as those "candle-snuffing" words may seem, I am so thankful for the truth that God "overthrows the words of the faithless" [Proverbs 22:12 NKJV].
In my journey of healing, I am rediscovering the joy of gift-giving. Not in offering pretty packages with sparkly bows... but in learning to intentionally speak words that uphold, strengthen, and sustain the weary. Ephesians 4:29 exhorts, "Never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to those who hear" [TPT]. I am learning that a perceived "problem" can become an exciting "opportunity," an unwelcome "have to" can become an embraced "get to," and a dreaded "This is going to be" can become an expectant "This will be." What's at the top of my list? The circumstances-determine-your-joy "I'll be glad when..." can become the joy-determines-your-circumstances "I choose to be glad right now."
Friends, it is not semantics. It is a transformed heart, deeply-rooted assurance that overflows from abiding in God's steadfast nature of Love and from resting in the kind intention of His will toward us [Ephesians 1:5 NASB 1995]. It is an unwavering mindset that, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord..." [Psalm 27:13 NASB 1995]. It is a life declaration, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is steadfast and confident!" [Psalm 57:7 AMPC]. "No wonder I can sing your praises!" [NLT].
If you recognize that perhaps you have a candle-snuffing vocabulary, invite "God, the fountain of hope" to "fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!" Invite the Holy Spirit to give you an instructed tongue, filled with words that "fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted" [2 Timothy 1:6 TPT] in the lives of those with whom you interact. As you listen and respond, I believe you will "find the words that comfort and soothe the downtrodden, tired, and despairing" and "know when to use them" [Isaiah 50:4 VOICE].
Beloved, let's journey together and learn to "Speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it" [I Thessalonians 5:11 MSG]. Let's watch and see what God will do!
Want to respond but not sure where to start? Take a moment and listen to Acceptable, a powerful prayer led in song by the extraordinary Cynthia Wilson. I trust that it will equip you with vocabulary to express your heart to God.
If you are looking for resources to further strengthen your vocabulary, Overcoming Negativity through Rest, shared by Graham Cooke has been a transformative resource in my own faith journey. If you are looking for a bigger reason for getting rid of "horrible candle-snuffing words," I pray this sermon, God's Glory through You, would cast eternal vision for your relationships.
If this blog has been meaningful to you, I invite you to do two things. Subscribe to the blog. You will be one of the first to receive a heads-up via email when a new entry is posted! Then, I invite you to share this blog with your sphere of friends. You never know how God might sustain the weary through a simple word of encouragement.